Left Archive: Culture and Revolution in Ireland, Eoin Ó Murchú, Official Sinn Féin, 1971 March 10, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin.
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This document issued in 1971 by Official Sinn Féin and written by Eoin Ó Murchú, engages with the issue of Culture and Revolution in Ireland. In the course of 24 pages it examines ‘What is Culture’, discusses ‘Native Irish Culture’, considers ‘Imperialism and Culture’ and ‘Socialism and Culture’ and then ‘Language and Culture’ and proposes a ‘Manifesto of the Cultural Revolution in Ireland’.
It is too long a document to give more than a brief overview but the Introduction will serve to offer some insight into its overall approach.
As noted in the Reamhra:
Culture is av dry wide term that embraces many meanings. Some associate culture with the individuals who talk about art and drama, the arty-set; others associate it with literature, art, music, etc., which people have produced; for us, revolutionaries, it has a wider and yet more specific, meaning – a meaning which places culture in its political context. Culture is the response of a people to the environment they live in. As such, the culture of a people includes every aspect of their lives – the way they work, eat, cohabit, play – and it is not confided to the artistic means which different civilisations have developed. What we as revolutionaries are concerned about in in this question of culture and art is the way people’s ideas and attitudes are formed, about the development of revolutionary consciousness.
Ó Murchú quotes Mao Tse Tung’s definition:
‘A given culture is the ideological reflection of the politics and economics of a given society’.
Ó Murchú argues that:
We will always find in our efforts to win the people over to support of our political and economic programme that what is clear to us is often vague and confusing to them. The culture of our present society is not one that encourages revolution, for the dominant economic and political ideas are those of the dominant class in Irish society, and that class obviously is opposed to the social revolution to which we are committed. The whole aim of the cultural apparatus of the state is to condition the people, through its educational system, the mass media of radio and newspapers, and through the general promotion of mythology and superstition.
Quoting Pearse he continues…
Pearse described the educational system that the English imperial government foisted on the Irish people as the ‘murder machine’. ‘The system has aimed at the substation for men and women of mere Things…but these Things have no allegiance. Like other Things they are for sale’.
He notes the ‘immediacy of the cultural question [which] can be seen from the fact of the economic and social existence of the Gaeltacht is so tenuous at the moment.
And he concludes:
…this paper does not pretend to be definitive on this matter of culture. It is not holy writ or dogma and the production of the lecture as a pamphlet is an attempt to widen the scope of our internal education programme.
If the subject is properly discussed and criticised we ail be able to make a programme of policy, perhaps on the lines indicated in the final section, which is called ‘The Manifesto of the Cultural Revolution in Ireland’.
Briefly in relation to the Manifesto, it is notable that he argues that:
Socialism needs artists and intellectuals who will [present the socialist view of humanity and of world progress]… and because only socialism in the modern, because only socialism is responsive to humanity, because only socialism can enrich humanity socialists therefore have the right to demand of artists and intellectuals that they champion the cause of the people in their writings and in their art. If they do not then the socialist movement will expose them for the defenders of imperialism that they must be.
He also suggests that:
The revival of Irish is an integral part of any cultural revolution in Ireland. This does not mean that every person will bee forced by some miraculous compulsion to speak Irish. What it means is that it just be the conscious policy of Irish revolutionaries to call for those measures that will assist the revival of the language: More time and programmes in Irish on television on radio, the bias of a revival programme must be towards the Gaeltacht, for the Culture of the Gaeltacht is a living and vital thing while that of the Galltacht in Irish is either an imitation of Imperialist culture or a weaker version of a pure original.
We must demand of all mass media, in the North as importantly as in the South, that else mass media be used to develop the living culture of working people. The Orangemen think that the Six County state is theirs, but there is as much time devoted to Orange culture on Northern television as there is to any other aspect of Irish culture.
Left Archive: Nuclear Power & Ireland, Research Section, Department of Economic Affairs, Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, c.1980 June 4, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin The Workers Party, Workers' Party.
This document, issued by the Research Section of SFWP is of particular interest appearing as it did during a period where the issue of nuclear power loomed large in the consciousness of Irish citizens due to the possibility of a nuclear reactor being constructed at Carnsore Point. That never came to pass, but the document attempts to engage with the issue.
It is divided into an Introduction, an overview of various technical and scientific aspects of the production nuclear power, a consideration of Alternatives and Buying Nuclear Power as well as a Conclusion.
In the introduction it notes that in 1978:
…we published a pamphlet on Energy which examined the question of providing electricity by using various fuels in order to produce electricity as cheaply as possible. We considered that nuclear power would not give us cheap electricity. Since then there have been further developments in relation to energy sources and we believe that a full and public debate on the issues involved in the energy problem for Ireland is essential.
At this remove it is interesting to see the mention of nuclear fusion reactors, which the text notes ‘Fusion reactors are not likely [to be in use] before about 2,000 or later’.
It notes the events at Three Mile Island in the United States where ‘mechanical and human failures led to a release of low-level radiation into the atmosphere around the Three Mile Island plant’. It continues ‘The anti-nuclear lobby seized on the accident as proof positive that all nuclear reactors are unsafe and therefore should be closed down. Countries with nuclear power plants, the vast majority of them, did not see the wisdom of closing down nuclear power plants’.
In light of the Chernobyl accident only a short number of years later the following appears somewhat optimistic:
The nuclear accident at Harrisburg caused expressions of concern around the world. Energy officials in the Soviet Union and elsewhere let it be known that while increased precautions may be taken the nuclear power programme will go forward.
In an interview with the newspaper Trud Fyodor I. Ovchinnikov, the Deputy Minister of Electricity and Electrification, said that the possibility of a slip-shod attitude existed where private interests, in this case those of the owner of the nuclear energy station, were regarded as of paramount importance.
The section on Alternatives is somewhat cursory, and argues that ‘what the anti-nuclear lobby are asking countries with an urgent and vital need for supplies of cheap energy to do is take a theory on trust, to make an act of faith in the possibility of producing great quantities of electricity in this way.’
The Conclusion clearly points towards the eventual use of nuclear power, albeit suggesting that in the context of reactors produced in the United States ‘the private enterprise approach is obviously not making sufficient safety provisions’ while ‘nuclear power stations built in socialist countries are more advanced on safety… but this may mean they are more costly to build and therefore will not compare favourably with the cost of stations run on conventional fuel’. Interestingly there is no mention made of British or other European reactors.
Left Archive: National College of Art A Case History of Education under Neo-Colonialism. c.1971 – NCA Student Union. May 27, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, National College of Art (later NCAD) Students Union, Official Sinn Féin, The Left.
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To download the above document please click on the following link: NCADOCGO
Many thanks to the person who donated this to the Archive.
This document was published by the Student Union of the National College of Art in Dublin (later the NCAD), and written by Paddy Gillan. The dedication is suggestive of its political provenance:
To Cathal Goulding, house-painter, who spoke at a student seminar in November 1970; trusting that he and his fellow tradesmen will find it of value to apprentices.
As the acknowledgements explain, the ‘pamphlet is, primarily, the result of a seminar – “Art and Society” which was held in the NCA in November, 1970’. It notes that ‘The theoretical guidance of speakers at the seminar – in particular, Jack Dowling, Lelia Doolan, Seamus O Tuathail and Eoghan Harris – helped enormously in my attempt to analyse the NCA situation’
‘For advice and help in writing this pamphlet, I am indebted to Nell McCafferty, Anne Harris and John Armstrong’.
It is broken up into five chapters or sections and attempts to give an overview of the NCA and its then situation. At that time the College was situated as part of the Leinster House complex between ‘Dáil Éireann and the National Library in what were once the stables of Leinster House’. The Overview notes that at the time 120 students were in attendance in the institution, ‘eighteen class-rooms existed in the College, many of which are closed, necessary equipment is scarce. Rules and regulations governing the use of such equipment as exists result in it lying idle more often than it is in use. Maintenance of the NCA is in the hands of the Board of Works. The building is patrolled each night by a military picquet; the attitudes to academic discipline reflect this’.
The Background suggests that from its inception to the 1920s:
The school [Metropolitan School of Art - as was] was a colonialist institution. The work conducted in [it] was a mixture of Graeco-Roman and English art-decorative traditions. This was actualised in the form of individual art-objects – drawings, paintings, sculptures – and multiple craft objects which were for private consumption. The actualisation took place in a British colony, the people were politically, economically, culturally and educationally oppressed. The staff and students of the school were, essentially, privileged and their function was to serve the cultural needs of the beneficiaries of colonialism in Ireland – the British, Anglo-Irish and upper-middle class sections of the community. As it served an elite minority, the school was neither a proper cultural or educational establishment because proper culture and education must serve and relate to the whole of a community; furthermore, it was almost totally isolated from the community. Elitism and isolation continue to affect the NCA.
There is much more, not least an interesting insight into the history of the NCA Students Union, formerly the NCA Students Representative Council, which is criticised for having formerly:
..concentrated purely on social affairs. Apart from meeting at social functions, NCA students were effectively disunited and disorganised within the College… student general meetings were rarely held; when they were, it was to discuss the Annual Art Ball.
But the account of developments in the 1967 to 1971 period gives – perhaps – an echo of events occurring further afield, not least in the form of student boycotting of classes due to conditions in the NCA in relation to lack of staff and resources culminating in a ‘work-in’ in February 1969 (there’s an entertaining reference to Brian Lenihan, then Minister of Education, being forced ‘to leave a meeting at TCD through a toilet window after repeatedly refusing to state why he had closed the NCA [on foot of student actions]’. In April there was an occupation of the NCA and the following year there was another occupation and by January 1971 NCA students were picketing the Department of Education on a daily basis and further occupations ensued.
The final section, Beyond History addresses further the issue of neo-colonialism and the position of the NCA within that context.
The pamphlet also gives a sense of the times and the attitude to cultural areas within the state. There’s one telling quote from Terry Kelleher in Hibernia from 1970:
The crux of the matter is that the NCA is not economically productive in the way that a school of engineering or college of technology can be. Neither is the College a vote-catching issue.
To download the above file please click on the following link: Resistance
Many thanks to Alan Mac Simoin for scanning and forwarding this document to the Archive.
Unusually there’s no clear provenance of this document. It mentions the Civil Rights Movement, People’s Democracy and the Republican Movement, and the cover is obviously taken from the famous Joe McCann ‘Army of the People’ photograph from the Official IRA. That said it appears to have been written by NICRA or PD members and any clarification on it would be very welcome.
It was written in the wake of internment and before the suspension of Stormont in March 1972.
As such it calls for the end of internment on foot of what it considers to be a mobilisation of the people. It also focusses on Crossmaglen and gives a detailed list of activities in that area such as protests, barricades and other forms of opposition to the state. There’s also a ‘Jail Journal’ reprinted from the Irish Times which consists of a personal account by Seamus O Tuathail, former editor of the OSF United Irishman and his experiences in Crumlin Road Prison.
The document also states the aims of the groups that it represents, most important of which is the establishment of a ‘democratic assembly’ and that:
The Assembly would be organised on a 32-county basis, and would lay the foundation for an all-Ireland democratic republic in the tradition of Tone, Connolly and the 1916 Proclamation.
Left Archive: Tomás MacGiolla, Óráid an Uachtaráin, Sinn Féin 1969 Ard Fheis (Held January 1970) June 11, 2012Posted by Garibaldy in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin, Workers' Party.
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Hard for those of us in the WP to believe, but it’s now two years since the death of Tomás MacGiolla. As I said at the time, MacGiolla was a giant of a man in every sense – a man of personal and political integrity, as well as someone of great political vision. He remained politically active to the end. The above link is a Word version of his speech at the 1969 ard fheis, which was held in January 1970, and which saw the minority walk out to form the provisionals’ political wing. So the speech is significant for the reaction to the events of August 1969 in the north, and for the tensions of the looming formalisation of the split. It’s both of historical interest, and reflects the vision that drove Tomás and his politics to the end.
One thing that might surprise people looking back on Sinn Féin documents and the United Irishman from this period and into the early 1970s now is that they are not dominated by the north to the extent that we might expect. In the opening section of the speech, which was in Irish, MacGiolla addresed not the north, but the situation in the rural south, and especially in the west [the document lacks fadas, and there is a translation of the Irish included in this transcription of the speech]. Although parts of the speech might not have been worded in subsequent years as they were by MacGiolla in 1969, parts of it seem more contemporary.
But instead of trying to relieve the distress of the people, the Dublin government is actually making things worse. Even the Stormont government would not have the audacity and brazenness to force 36,000 farmers into emigration in the four year period 1969 -72, and then to call this plan, which will cause decimation amongst the small farmers of the country an Economic Development Plan, as the Dublin government has done.
The speech reflects the Sinn Féin fear in the 1960s that closer economic cooperation was the first step towards some kind of federal arrangement between the UK and the Republic.
It would be more honest with the Irish people and especially with their own party members, if with Mr. Lynch and his colleagues, Mr. Blaney, Boland, Haughey, Colley and others in Fianna Fail who have finally and formally abandoned the objective of an Independent Republic and who believe in federation with Britain, would form a Federal Party to advance their ideas rather than continue to advance them behind cloak of Republicanism.
The main thrust of the speech on the north is the necessity to continue with the civil rights campaign, and to ensure its non-sectarian character. The ultimate aim of unity through uniting the common people of all religions is laid out, despite the pressures that resulted from the events in the north.
Republicans and others are therefore still denied basic civil liberties and intend to press for a continued campaign to achieve them. What has been achieved has been got by a hard struggle. If the people now relax in their efforts, not alone will they make no further progress but much of what has been achieved will be gradually whittled away.
In spite of the deliberately fermented sectarianism during the course of the Civil Rights campaign, the Civil Rights movement must renew its efforts to emphasise its non sectarian character. This is also the most difficult and most challenging task for Republicans in the 70’s. The unity of Catholic and Protestant workers is essential in the struggle against the Tory establishment and against British Colonial and neo-colonial rule in Ireland. A new nation will be built, not through the efforts of the Belfast, Dublin or London Government but through the efforts of the common people of Ireland. The mass of the people of all religions can be united behind a coherent ideological stand and this Republicans are now trying to inject into politics North and South.
For MacGiolla, the task remained the placing of economic and political power in the hands of the plain people of Ireland.
The power of the establishment here can be smashed by the same methods as were used in the 6 counties. To do so the broad mass of people must be united behind a well defined programme. I believe the programme on which such unity can be achieved is a programme for the re-conquest of Ireland set out as a series of Economic, Social, and Cultural demands. We must therefore formulate such a programme and endeavour to unite all radical and progressive groups in a movement for the achievement of these demands, making use of all the methods of agitation and political action which would be likely to help our objective.
A clear insight then into the strategic intentions of the leadership of which Tomás MacGiolla was a part, and of his determination not to be knocked off course.
Left Archive: The Prison Experience – A Loyalist Perspective, by Marion Green, EPIC research document No.1, 1999. January 30, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Miscellaneous Documents, Miscellaneous Left Publications, Official Sinn Féin, Progressive Unionist Party, Sinn Féin.
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To download the above please click on the following link:LOYALPRISONDOC
This document [and many thanks to the person who donated it] may seem at first sight an unlikely one to be part of the Left Archive, however it provides both an overview of the general conditions and history of the prison system in Northern Ireland for political prisoners – Loyalist and Republican, and also gives an insight into the relationships between both as well as a developing political consciousness on the part of the former.
Produced in 1998 by the EPIC (Ex-Prisoners’ Interpretative Centre) in Belfast it provides in a series of chapters
The Preface notes that EPIC ‘as a community based self-help organisation welcome [new arena’s for addressing differences and representing communities] and will continue to give our support to these latest developments at the political level, we are also conscious of the impact and legacy of violent conflict at community level’.
EPIC has taken responsibility to assist in the reintegration and transformation of ex-prisoners who engaged in the violent conflict. As an integral part of this work EPIC has undertaken intensive research into prison-related issues – whether describing the background to the prison experience itself, or cataloguing the many predicaments, problems and concerns which politically- motivated ex-prisoners encounter upon release.
The Introduction further notes that:
For the past thirty years there have been thousands of Loyalists incarcerated in NI’s prisons and yet very little has been written about the subject. That neglect is all the more noticeable when one considers the number of books and other publications which have appeared dealing with Republican prisoners.
And most importantly given the left orientation of some Loyalist originating political parties:
Just as remarkable has been the crucial impact former prisoners and their associates have made upon the political process – a process once kept remove from working class aspirations and interventions. Within the Loyalist working-class community parties such as the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party have done much to help move this entire society away from the politics of intransigence and violence to the politics of accommodation and dialogue, while proving that no surrender of identity or aspiration need be involved in the process.
Inside the document there is a chronological approach, with sections addressing ‘The Early Days: Crumlin Road Jail’ – with interesting anecdotes about how the various paramilitary groupings had to liaise in order to maintain discipline, ‘Internment and Long Kesh’ – and demands for political status where, as is noted, ‘we didn’t get much help from the UUP or the wider unionist population’, ‘Early Prison Protests’, ‘Coping with Life inside’, ‘Fighting Criminalisation’ and so on.
A telling point is made when it is noted that:
Not all the prisoners were interested in politics, some just wanted to get on with their sentences, but a small number of men were interested and they got involved in political debates and discussions, not only with fellow Loyalists but with Official Republicans.
The sense of the prison experience as a crucible for ‘fresh political thinking’, as the document puts it, is strongly reinforced by these observations.
Left Archive: “Liam McMillen, Separatist, Socialist, Republican” – Official Sinn Féin, 1975 December 19, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin.
To download the above please click on the following link: OSF BILLMC
This document [donated by PW for which many thanks], published as Repsol Pamphlet No. 21 in 1975, offers an overview of the life of Liam (Billy) McMillen.
McMillen was a pivotal figure in the Belfast IRA from the 1940s onwards with a career that spanned the Border Campaign, the politicisation of SF following the end of the campaign, and through to Civil Rights (he was a member of the first executive of NICRA) and the outbreak of armed conflict in 1969. He was also instrumental in the history of the IRA both pre and post split. As Officer Commanding in Belfast his centrality to this history is self-evident.
McMillen was murdered in 1975 by the INLA during the feud between them and the OIRA subsequent to the split in the latter.
This document contains an Appreciation by Des O Hagan, a lecture by McMillen on the ‘Role of the I.R.A. 1962 − 1967’, a speech of his at Bodenstown in 1973, an oration by Cathal Goulding at his graveside and a short poem by Dominic Behan.
What is most strongly notable is the emphasis on Republicanism throughout from Des O’Hagan’s appreciation to Goulding’s oration. It’s also notable for the explicit recognition of the Irish Republican Army, as again exemplified in Goulding’s oration. That the language and tone are particularly harsh is perhaps explicable on the events surrounding his death.
What’s of particular interest are McMillen’s own words. His speech from Bodenstown in 1973 points to a number of perhaps contradictory strands.
For while there have been changes in the elements that go to make up the historic republican movement, so too have there been changes in the face and operation of capitalism and imperialism. If once the imperialist sought control of trading post and territory, today his trading post is at every street corner and his territory is measured in square feet in the gutted centres of our cities and towns.
And he continues:
The Six Counties at peace, if that could be achieved by a combination of war-weariness, subjugation, repression and political trickery, would be more valuable to the imperialist than the Six COunties risen in resistance against him. We may even ask if the 32 counties, united as one market place but free of resistance by any group, would not serve his purpose even better? For the lesson which has been underlined by fifty years of the Free State’s existence has been that a mockery of independence without the reality of control by and for the people is a petty and useless thing. And a government of Irishmen who would betray its working people, to the British Army, the RUC or the sectarian UDR finds it no great contradiction to betray its people to the international capitalists whom it pays to come and control its industry, its mines and its people.
Left Archive: Problems of the Irish Revolution – Can the IRA meet the challenge? by Gerry Foley, 1972 December 12, 2011Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin, Workers' Party.
To download the above file please click on the following link: GF OSF
This document, printed in 1972, provides an overview by US activist and journalist Gerry Foley. Foley who worked for Trotskyist publication, Intercontinental Press spent some time in Ireland in 1970 and in 1972 meeting and interviewing ‘revolutionary nationalist leaders, including Cathal Goulding, the man known as the chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, and Tomas MacGiolla, the President of Sinn Féin, the political arm of the republican movement.’
When he returned ‘in the turbulent early months of 1972… he went on to tour Europe and Scandinavia with Malachy McGurran,leader of the Official Republican movement in the North, to build an international defines of the liberation struggle in Ireland’.
The document itself is drawn from an essay that first appeared in Intercontinental Press in 1972.
In the introduction Foley outlines the circumstances that led to ‘in May-June 1968, a mass movement develop[ing] among the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.’
And he notes ‘the rise of this movement also reflected other changes that had been accumulating beneath the surface. After the failure of the 1956-62 guerilla campaign, the traditional nationalist movement, the IRA, had been forced to rethink its historic positions. In this process it moved away from concentrating exclusively on guerrilla warfare in the name only of national unity and full independence. It began to develop a program of political action based on the immediate needs and aspirations of the mass of the people.’
One of the first effects of the massive fighting that developed in August 1969 was a split in the IRA. The rise of communal warfare encouraged some veterans of the 1956-62 campaign, who had been opposed or indifferent to the new orientation, to break away from the Official movement and forma Provisional IRA. Although they too have been changing under the pressure of the situation, the Provisionals have generally stressed military action as the main form of fighting the oppression of the Catholic community. The Officials have tried to combine commando group activity with peaceful mass action.
And he notes:
In general the distinction between the two groups has been seen in terms of mass action vs. guerrilla warfare. Smaller socialist groups, which had tended to discount the revolutionary potential of democratic demands, have found themselves either isolated or drawn into the orbit of one or the other militant nationalist organisation, since this was the arena where the struggle for leadership was centred.
And he concludes:
If traditionalism is not dead yet, the pressure of events and the spread of new ideas seems to have dealt it a mortal blow. In the future any radical organisation will have to stand on its political program and not its historical credentials.
In the main body of the article he discusses the then recent declaration by the Official IRA in May 19, 1972, that it was ‘suspending armed offensive operations in Ulster’. And he attempts to parse out the meaning of that statement both in terms of its direct impact and its future implications. What is of particular interest is the way in which Foley points to a range of actions, including the death of an OIRA volunteer, Martin O’Leary, during the Mogul silver mine strike in 1971 and position this within the developing approach of Official Republicanism.
He also notes the various influences on Official Republicanism from ‘British ultra-leftist and workerist groups [in Derry]’ to ‘Stalinism’ and the ‘scholastic fuzziness… of the British Communist Party’. And he argues that there is a danger that ‘since the civil rights movement has not proceeded as expected and the republican leadership was evidently not prepared politically for the actual results – that disorientation will set in’.
And intriguingly given later developments in OSF he argues that:
By its devotion to the ideals of socialism and its uncompromising fight against all the conservative forces in Ireland, the Official republican movement has won the support of a large number of dedicated revolutionary youth. By waging centralised political campaigns and by giving clear political direct, it can weld these youth into the best fighting force in Europe. The main instrument of this process, however, cannot be an ‘army of the people’; it must be the party of the Irish revolution.
That his analysis is critical but sympathetic is particularly useful in getting a sense of the time.
Ceremony to be held on the 18th September 2011 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the deaths of Fian Rose Curry and Fian Gerard O’Hare. September 2, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in History, Official Republican Movement (1990s/2000s), Official Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin, The Left.
A ceremony will be held on the 18th September 2011 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the deaths of Fian Rose Curry and Fian Gerard O’Hare.
You are invited to attend the unveiling of a memorial plaque to honour our fallen Comrades, who gave their lives in defence of the people of the Lower Falls.
A family mass will be held in St. Peters Cathedral at 11.00am. The Commemoration will begin at 12.30pm at the corner of Balkan St/Leeson St. The Speeches and plaque unveiling will start at 1.00pm sharp at Gibson St.
This will be a non Party-Political event and all are welcome.